Events In St. Louis

A full week after closing the Venus Envy 2005 show, PlaybackSTL asked me, “What is it like to plan such a large cultural event in the City of St. Louis?” This is a question that I had never asked myself. My brain was still fuzzy as I was suffering from “post-party syndrome,” a common condition for event planners. As a special event planner and owner of Claire De Lune Productions, I’ve always dutifully done whatever is necessary to produce successful events without wondering how St. Louis ranks.

I would absolutely love to see St. Louis hosting more public cultural events. I believe it would enrich our city and create more character and unique charm—not to mention the boost in tourism dollars flowing to city business owners. I have had positive experiences working with The Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, The Grove, Grand Oak Hill, and University City, and with state legislators, civic organizations, and City Aldermen. They all seem to recognize the value of such events happening in their neighborhoods and assist wherever they can. I believe the community would support the addition of more culturally rich events in the city and embrace the opportunities that they provide.

St. Louis is trying to do better—but we’re not quite there yet. The City permitting process can be cumbersome, costly, and confusing. Determining which permits are necessary creates a challenge of its own and then the time-consuming process of applying for those permits is another animal altogether. There are permits required for food, beverage, occupancy, parades, fire, noise, street blockage, use of public streets, public utilities, building division, parking—I’m sure that I’m missing more than a few.

Let me say that the problem lies with the system, not the employees and representatives who are just doing their jobs when trying to enforce it. For this reason, I think our city officials should devise a specific policy to provide a clear path for event planners to follow. This would include guidelines for festivals and events of various sizes, along with one application for all the necessary permits. Such action would provide access to the city, limit the strain on city services, and maintain quality of life for area residents. A reexamination of the current system might yield some creative ways to simplify the process with a one-stop-shop process. These changes would encourage a greater number of event planners to consider St. Louis as a site for their event.

One of my concerns is that the regulators are quick to apply rules designed for permanent building occupancy to the world of special events. It’s a fine line that we walk in this arena. Safety is, of course, everyone’s main concern, but when does it deter large events from happening in the city? Officials tend to react to accidents with stronger rules, but is that the solution? Most nonprofit organizations have neither the staff nor the money to devote to the process and doing so detracts from the hard work required to produce and promote the event. It might be worth the time and effort of our officials to examine the policies of other culturally rich cities and try to learn from their successes.

Another area of concern is union labor requirements for some public venues. The cost of hiring union labor can be very high. In some cases, this cost alone is higher than any other expense and could be a major factor in deciding where or not to host an event.

All in all, there’s no place like the city. I love the charm and rugged character that the old city buildings have to offer. I love the edgy and exciting feel that only the city can provide. For the time being, I will embrace the challenges and hope for change.

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